Center of Attention

A dozen ideas for budget-friendly party centerpieces.

By Teresa P. Lanker

1 Mix and match. Plan two or three different centerpiece models—one or two of them simple and another more extravagant. Mix them throughout the reception site for a coordinated look without the expense of all high-priced designs. A high/low plan, with some designs above the heads of guests and others low to the table, helps fill the space in vast reception halls.

2 Individuals. Make each table design unique, using an assortment of containers gathered from wholesaler discount rooms, flea markets or your shop basement. Paint them all in a coordinated color scheme, and use a similar mix of flowers and colors in all designs, regardless of style. Because a mixture of looks is desirable for this plan, designers of all levels can be involved.

3 Mono-Mass. Design centerpieces with masses of all one flower type. Drop single bunches of tulips, Gladioli, ‘Monte Cassino’ Asters or daisy spray mums into clear cylinder vases, and go. No greening is needed, and planning the flower order is a breeze.

4 Tabletop props. Using ribbons, create a striped, plaid or pie-wedge pattern across the surface of each table. Feature framed photographs of the bride and groom or honoree(s), or props that relate to their careers or hobbies, in the center of each table, with water-tubed flowers skillfully placed among them. Enhance the table centers with mirrors, shells, scattered rose petals or mounds of wedding rice.

5 Floaters. Place glass lotus bowls, shallow dishes or contemporary traylike containers in the centers of the tables, and float individual blossoms or masses of petals in each. Add decorative marbles, gravel or stones to the base for added interest. Be sure to leave plenty of room in the containers for movement. Consider ringing the bases of the containers with strands of ivy or branchlets of salal or leatherleaf.

6 Fruits and nuts. Fill ceramic bowls, silver trays or decorative compotes with seasonal fruits and/or vegetables along with edible nuts and interesting botanical pods. Tuck in a couple of coordinating blooms in water tubes. Try combining pastel spring flowers with peaches and green grapes, bright summer blooms with green beans and avocados, fall florals with walnuts and ‘Granny Smith’ apples, and winter whites with gilded pears.

7 Candles. Use candles in creative manners. Group pillar candles of varied heights atop a crystal cake plate, and surround them with foliages. Place a dozen glass votive candleholders on a silver tray, filling one or two with a special blossom (peony, orchid, rose) and the rest with candles.

Also, combine floating candles with idea Nos. 5 and 6 to create special effects. Floating candles are always at home with floating blooms, and submerged fruits in cylinders with candles floating above provide a unique and appealing combination.

8 Plants. Rent or sell common indoor plants, such as ivies or ferns, in decorative pots for a natural-looking table center. Use the plants as “holders” into which guest favors can be inserted. For spring and summer weddings, create saucers of planted annuals as centerpieces for special guests to take home.
Plant wheat grass in saucers of moist moss, place in a sunny window sill and mist daily, and within a week to 10 days, you’ll have a healthy crop of bright green sprouts that can stand alone as centerpieces or act as bases for creative floral designs.

9 Loaners. Use accessories available from reception sites (tabletop mirrors, lanterns, votives, etc.) to enhance your floral designs without adding expense. Rent shop merchandise, such as garden statuary, decorative candleholders, table runners or figurines, to provide personality and distinction to reception tables. Also, create permanent centerpieces in simple styles and common wedding colors, and rent them alone or in combination with fresh centerpieces for a pleasing mix of fresh and permanent.

10 Bud vase clusters. Group three or more bud vases, and add a flower or two to each vase, mixing the blooms to provide interest. Bind the vases into a unit with ribbon, raffia, twine, or bear grass, if their shapes allow.
Lay a “tic-tac-toe” grid or an armature of branches, reeds, river cane or Equisetum (made by tying, lacing and/or gluing stems into the desired size and shape) across the tops of all the bud vases to help support flower placements while providing added unity and style. Add colored water to clear bud vases to enhance the look.

11 Gazing balls. Provide a spherical focal point to the center of a table by using a children’s play ball painted in wedding colors surrounded by flowers and/or greens. Round holiday ornaments in solid colors can be similarly used, either singly or in multiples, to center low mass designs. Glass bubble balls with flowers designed inside can be used to create a similar globular impact, and minimal flowers are required due to the confines of the container.

12 Tabletop trees. Create “weeping willow” trees using tall stems of curly willow with small blooms or wedding trinkets suspended from showers of sheer ribbon tied among the branches. Or design a topiary effect by grouping multiple stems of flowers or greens into a treelike form, with stems tightly grouped and aligned and all blooms gathered at the same height above the container. Try standard flowers such as carnations, roses, lilies and Alstroemerias as well as more unusual materials such as Sedum, Solidago, Hypericum and tree fern/tiki fern.

Teresa P. Lanker is assistant professor and chair of the Horticultural Technologies Division and coordinator of Floral Design and Marketing at The Ohio State University ATI.


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